After a time, I figured that rolling around on the floor with my teeth gritted wasn't helping, so I stepped and hopped my way to the bathroom. I turned on the cold water in the tub and put my foot under it. The relief was instant, but with the absence of pain came the sudden realization that I might have done myself considerable injury and that one-legged hurdlers don't even finish third.
My stepfather came into the bathroom holding a candle. I figured he must have been awakened by the sound of the water. He said, "What in the hell have you been doing, gymnastics? I never heard such a racket in my life." By that time he was close enough to hold the candle down and see my foot. I was afraid, but I looked too. Naturally it was the ball of my foot I had set on the candle. I could already see a blister forming under the layer of wax. It was the size of a quarter and growing. My stepfather asked me what I had done. I told him.
"Well," he said, "you have exceeded yourself. I thought last week when you nearly killed the cat with the lawnmower that you had reached your potential, but I see you have uncounted reserves left."
I didn't know what he meant and I didn't care. I got out something about the track meet. He said, "Oh, I wouldn't worry. You being on the team, you ought to be able to get a good seat in the stands."
I told him I had to compete, that my life and future depended on it. I told him that if I didn't compete and the reason why I didn't ever got out, I would be ruined for life and would probably never be able to get another date until I was 30 years old and living in some other state.
Well, maybe I didn't really say that, but it was close enough to give him the picture of how serious I considered the matter. He said, "Well, we got maybe one chance. We got to draw that blister and toughen it up, and the only thing I know that will do that is salt water. But it's going to hurt."
I said I didn't care, that I could stand a pain in my foot but not in my heart. He just gave me an odd look and said he hoped I didn't go around town talking like that. He also said, "And if I was you I would be sure and not wake up your mother. If she gets a look at that foot you won't be going out of this house, much less to a track meet."
While I limped back into the bedroom, my stepfather went into the kitchen and put a little water in a pan, got out the salt and the bottle of iodine. He put a lot of salt in the water and about half the bottle of iodine. I wanted to know what the iodine was for, and he said infection. I couldn't see the point to that, since I associated iodine with cuts and I didn't have a cut. Then he got a razor blade and slit the blister, and I understood. I understood even better when he stuck my foot into the salt-iodine-water solution. I understood so well that I nearly bit my lower lip off trying not to scream and wake up my mother.
It took about 15 minutes before I could keep my foot in the pan without my stepfather holding it there, but he was finally able to let go. He stood up, shook his head and said, "Now about all you can do is sit there, as long as you can stay awake, and soak your foot. It might work."
Indeed, it did seem to work. The next morning I bandaged my foot and put on thick socks and tennis shoes. I had a slight limp, but it was less from pain than from not wanting to put any weight on the ball of my foot. At breakfast my stepfather asked me how my blister was doing, and I said, "Well, at least we know there's no danger of infection." I said it sarcastically, because I was pretty sure he had put a good deal more iodine in the water than was necessary.